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Support slips for food labeling ballot measure

by Michelle Salzman
Forty-four percent of California voters support the ballot initiative, a 17-point drop from a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll conducted last month.
Forty-four percent of California voters support the ballot initiative, a 17-point drop from a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll conducted last month.

Over the past month, support for Proposition 37 has sharply declined among California voters, according to results of the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.

The ballot initiative, which would require new labeling for food that contains genetically modified ingredients, currently garners support from 44 percent of California voters — a 17-point drop from a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll conducted last month. The latest poll shows 42 percent of voters oppose the measure and 13 percent are undecided. In September, 61 percent of voters supported the measure, 25 percent opposed it and 13 percent were undecided.

As opponents of the ballot initiative have poured money into advertising against the measure — with funding levels of nearly 5 to 1 more than their adversaries — proponents of the proposition have struggled to keep up.

“A term like ‘genetically modified food’ sounds very scary so it’s not surprising that support for the measure was initially so strong,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “The challenge for the opposition has been to convince voters that there are economic consequences, such as increased grocery prices, to consider, and it appears that they are in the process of doing just that.

“But the most significant driving force behind this shift is the amount of money that the opposition has put into the campaign,” Schnur continued. “When voters hear a message so much more strongly from one side than the other, it’s not surprising to see the poll numbers move like this.”

Support for Proposition 37 has also slipped significantly across party lines. Among registered Democrats, support has declined by 12 percentage points since September, with 54-32 percent favoring the initiative. Registered Republicans oppose the initiative 30-58 percent (a decline of 19 points since September) and decline-to-state voters favor the initiative 49-36 percent (down 14 points).

Younger Californians continue to support the measure when compared to older voters, but their margin of support has also slipped since the September poll. Voters age 18 to 49 support the initiative 55-35 percent (down 11 points); voters 50 and over now overwhelming oppose the measure by 36-49 percent (a decline of 20 points).

Men and women’s support of the ballot initiative has also dipped: Men now oppose the measure by a margin of 40-48 percent (previously males supported it by 54-32 percent). Women continue to support the initiative by 49-37 percent; however that margin has tightened significantly since last month when women supported the measure by a margin of 67-19 percent.

Proposition 32 still struggling to gain ground with California voters

According to the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, California voters continue to oppose Proposition 32, the ballot initiative that seeks to restrict the amount of money that unions and businesses could spend on political activity.

Forty-six percent of voters oppose the measure, a two-point increase from the September poll. Thirty-nine percent support it, up from 36 percent, and 13 percent are undecided, a six-point drop.

Union members are sharply opposed to the measure. When asked how they would vote for Proposition 32, 59 percent of union members said they would vote ‘no,’ and 30 percent said they would vote ‘yes.’ Last month, opposition was slightly lower, with 54 percent of union members opposed and 34 percent in favor.

Opposition to Proposition 32 increased when voters were read a pair of statements outlining positions for and against the measure. The first statement in support said, “Proposition 32 is the reform we need to end the huge influence of unions and big corporations in Sacramento that costs taxpayers billions,” noting that the measure would prevent special interests from making campaign contributions to receive special favors from politicians, such as multimillion dollar tax loopholes and sweetheart pension deals.

The second statement said: “Proposition 32 is a corporate power grab. Of course we need to reduce the influence of powerful special interests on elected officials, but Prop. 32 is not real reform,” arguing that the measure has major loopholes that would silence working families while exempting thousands of Wall Street banks and insurance companies, allowing those business interests to spend more money influencing politicians.

When read these statements, opposition to the initiative increased to 50 percent, with 41 percent “strongly opposed.” Thirty-six percent of voters were in favor of the measure, with 28 percent supporting it “strongly.”

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21 by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. The full sample of 1,504 registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

Follow all election news coverage at Election 2012, a resource for journalists and others interested in politics created by USC Media Relations.

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